Arts in the Academy: Sustainability and impact of university-housed, small-scale arts centres.

Presentation with Carola Boehm, Jane Linden, Neil Mackenzie, Jodie Gibson, Gavin Carver and Ornette Clennon (UK).

Axis Arts Centre, Department of Contemporary Arts, MMU Cheshire, Crewe, UK
MMU’s academically housed Axis Arts Centre (previously Alsager Arts Centre) has an acclaimed public programme of touring new performance and visual art work presented in intensive autumn and spring seasons each year. Within these seasons it aims to promote the best emergent, national and international small-scale touring contemporary theatre, live art, contemporary dance, performance writing, new music and installation. For 30 years it has presented some of the biggest names in contemporary performance, including Forced Entertainment, Goat Island, Benjamin Zephaniah, Michael Nyman and Wayne Macgregor. Axis is also involved in a substantial programme of outreach activities and regional partnership projects.

Carola Boehm, Head of Contemporary Arts, MMU Cheshire
As head of the academic department hosting the AAC, and chairing its governing committee, Carola’s role in relation to the AAC has been one of ‘managing sustainability’, i.e. maintaining a sustainable balance between the departmental needs and the artistic vision. She holds degrees in music, computer science and electrical engineering and has held positions at the University of Glasgow, the University of Mainz, and the Royal Conservatory of Music and Dance in Den Haag. She was the Co-Director of the Research Centre for Music Technology in Glasgow for 10 years in which time she coordinated more than 20 collaborative projects.

Jane Linden, Senior Lecturer and Curator of the OpenSpace and its Curating Knowledge Series, Contemporary Arts, MMU Cheshire
As a teaching academic and a curator for the Open[Project]Space, which forms part of the Axis Arts Centre, Jane combines the pedagogic with the curatorial. She initiated the ‘Curating Knowledge’ project series in 2009 as a means to generate discourse on – and new audiences for – arts practice-as-research. The Open[Project]Space has become a venue for exposition and knowledge exchange for artist practitioners, post-graduates, staff and students and offers insights into the creative process to wider audiences.

Neil Mackenzie, Artistic Director, Axis Arts Centre, MMU Cheshire
Neil has been artistic director of the Arts Centre for the last 15 years, combining the role with lecturing in Theatre and Performance within the department, directing the
Flare International Festival of New Theatre in Manchester and directing the performance company Plane Performance. Being professionally active as a director with his own performance company, as well as being an academic, Neil substantial experience brings to the Axis the expertise and a wide network of contacts with companies, venues and producers, both in this country and abroad.

Jodie Gibson, Community Outreach Director, Axis Arts Centre, MMU Cheshire
Jodie’s role as Community Outreach & Development Director with Axis Arts Centre has focussed on how an academically housed art centre with a contemporary arts focus, reaches beyond the institution to attract new audiences and achieve greater impact and sustainability. Jodie has held several management positions within large regional UK theatres; both in the subsidised and commercial sector, including Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse Theatres, Sheffield Theatres, and Milton Keynes Theatre.

Gavin Carver, Principal Lecturer in Arts Enterprise, MMU Cheshire
Gavin Carver has a wide experience within the industry as a theatre designer, stage manager, production manager, lighting designer, and carnival designer. Over the past years, he has been involved in a range of projects that sought to make connections between regional and national arts' bodies and producers, the immediate community, and students and staff of a University. He believes that such relationships are critical for the currency and relevancy of HE and the related creative sectors. He has published on celebratory, community and carnival performance, as well as new modes of performance in the digital age.

Ornette Clennon, Lecturer, Community (Arts) Development, M4H, MMU Cheshire
Ornette has combined his artistic expertise with his twenty years of community practice; specifically examining the role of the applied arts and music in particular, in
enhancing the social networks that drive economic development, well-being and social capital in communities, demonstrated by his most recent project, Young Musicians for Heritage (M4H). As a composer and singer/producer, Ornette has worked with diverse ensembles and artists including the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, One Voice
Ensemble, Soul II Soul, Tabula Rasa dance company with performances in the Edinburgh Festival, HMV Showcases, the Big Note Festivals.


Format of PresentationPresentation / Panel Discussion.

The academically housed Contemporary Arts Centre “Axis Arts Centre” has been running for more than 30 years and is known to foreground contemporary arts in the northwest of England and is co-funded by the University (Manchester Metropolitan University) and Arts Council England. The Arts Centre developed as a public facility out of the 'Cultural Policy' of the old Crewe and Alsager College of Higher Education, in the early eighties, thus it has always had a remit related to, and embedded in, learning communities. Having moved in 2009 to the new Crewe Campus, re-housed in state of the art facilities, it is now located in a town with a famous train station, 45 minutes south of Manchester, 50 minutes north of Birmingham and 15 minutes from Stoke-on-Trent. It continues to have strong local links, supported by the on-going work of the university’s students that have a community arts focus, regional links with venues from London to Glasgow allowing artists to stop-by on their south-north tours, and international links fostered through international research of arts practitioners in the department.

This panel discussion aims to generate debate around small academically housed arts centres and to make explicit issues around sustainability of regular programming and impact within a diversity of communities. As part of the panel discussion, different view-points on a range of activities will be presented. These activities represent a specific model that allows for smaller academically housed arts centres to be effective, sustainable and have a measurable impact. Issues presented will revolve around:

- Programming strategies of smaller contemporary arts centres with academic patronage
- How ‘curating knowledge’ can support a relevant link between research practices and an ‘engaged public’
- The role of community development for small contemporary arts centres
- Interfaces between enterprise, research and learning
- A focussed case study, which includes our methodology to quantify our impact

There will be opportunities to consider the relevance of this model for the wider sector. The panel will invite the audience to join in the debate around effective models that make art programs sustainable and impactful.


Organized by IUGTE in collaboration with "ArtUniverse"